Learning Representations of Categorical Feature Combinations via Self-Attention

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Self-attention has been widely used to model the sequential data and achieved remarkable results in many applications. Although it can be used to model dependencies without regard to positions of sequences, self-attention is seldom applied to non-sequential data. In this work, we propose to learn representations of multi-field categorical data in prediction tasks via self-attention mechanism, where features are orderless but have intrinsic relations over different fields. In most current DNN based models, feature embeddings are simply concatenated for further processing by networks. Instead, by applying self-attention to transform the embeddings, we are able to relate features in different fields and automatically learn representations of their combinations, which are known as the factors of many prevailing linear models. To further improve the effect of feature combination mining, we modify the original self-attention structure by restricting the similarity weight to have at most k non-zero values, which additionally regularizes the model. We experimentally evaluate the effectiveness of our self-attention model on non-sequential data. Across two click through rate prediction benchmark datasets, i.e., Cretio and Avazu, our model with top-k restricted self-attention achieves the state-of-the-art performance. Compared with the vanilla MLP, the gain by adding self-attention is significantly larger than that by modifying the network structures, which most current works focus on.
  • Keywords: Learning Representations, Feature Combinations, Self-Attention
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